The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by German forces during the Second World War.

The British government considered the islands to be of little strategic importance and were reluctant to spend money on their defence. On 19 June 1940, the islands were demilitarised, and it was announced that those who wanted to be evacuated should register forthwith. The ensuing evacuations were poorly planned and executed.





In June 1941, islanders responded to a radio appeal from Britain to the peoples of Nazi-occupied Europe to put up 'V for Victory' signs. 

Jersey: Road sign in St Helier daubed with a 'V for Victory' sign and the slogan 'British victory is certain' by islanders, who faced fines and imprisonment if caught.
© IWM (HU 25934)

The appeal was not specifically directed towards Channel Islanders, but a few bold people joined in nevertheless. Such signs were painted on street signs, houses and walls. The sabotage provoked a strong reaction from the Germans who threatened to punish whole neighbourhoods if the culprit was not found.

German forces landed on Guernsey on 30 June and on Jersey the next day. There was no organised resistance movement against German forces – only acts by individuals or small groups. The occupying forces enforced a number of restrictions such as a nightly curfew and censorship of the press. Only a few people tried to escape to Britain.

During the occupation the islands were heavily fortified. Construction was overseen by the German Forces and the Organisation Todt – a German civil military engineering group. Foreign workers, many of whom were worked to death, were imported to build the fortifications.

Channel Islanders acutely suffered from food shortages, which, by late 1944, were critical. After appeals for help, a Red Cross ship started delivering food parcels.

The D-Day landings in 1944 signalled the beginning of the end of the German occupation, but it was not until nearly a year later that the islands were finally liberated. HMS Bulldog arrived in Guernsey on 9 May 1945 and a declaration of unconditional surrender was signed the following day.

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